Winston-Salem is yet again a playoff hockey town as the Continental Division Champion Carolina Thunderbirds will start their FPHL Playoffs run against the Port Huron Prowlers.
Coming into the FPHL Playoffs the Thunderbirds split an odd 4 game Home-Away series against the Columbus River Dragons with two wins in Columbus (3-1, 4-3), a loss in Columbus (3-2 SO) and OTL back home in Winston-Salem (4-3).
For the series Gus Ford had a goal and an assist while staying out of the penalty box. Ford finished the regular season with 46 goals (2nd in the FPHL), 68 assists (2nd) and 114 points (1st). He averaged 2.1 points per game which also led the league.
In the final game of the season Josh Koepplinger scored his 100th career FPHL point, and had a whopping 4 goals and 4 assists against the River Dragons. Koepplinger finished regulation play with 38 goals (5th in the league) and 76 points (4th).
Player/ coach John Buttitta had a goal and 3 assists in 4 games against the River Dragons. He rounded out the regular season with 60 helpers (3rd in the FHPL) and 74 points (5th).Also with a goal and 3 assists is Rookie Lucas Rowe. He is currently 5th in the league with 41 assists.
Oddly enough the Carolina Thunderbirds did not continue their mind warping time split between goalies Boris Babik and Gregory Hussey for the River Dragon series. Boris Babik went 1-2 with the 3-2 loss in Columbus, the 3-1 win in Columbus, and the 4-3 home loss in Winston-Salem. Hussey covered the 4-3 win in Columbus with a 39 shot performance.
Looking ahead to the first round of the FPHL Playoffs, Carolina and Port Huron have split the regular season series at two games apiece coming into the first round of the playoffs. The Thunderbirds won their last meet-up 6-5 back in December but the Prowlers took the previous game 4-3.
Port Huron is 2-3 in their last 5 with wins against the Watertown Wolves and losses at the Danbury Hat Tricks in their last two series.
Team leading goal scorer Dalton Jay has 33 for the Prowlers on the regular season. He has a goal and 3 assists in his last five. Dalton is 9th in the FPHL in goals and tied for 8th in the league in points with 68. Behind Jay is Joseph Deveny with 30 goals and averaging 1.2 points per game.
FPHL Playoffs will start for the Thunderbirds at the Port Huron Prowlers on Friday April 21st, then make their way home to Winston-Salem on the 22nd and 23rd. If you are anywhere in North Carolina, and can make it to the Winston-Salem Fairground Annex, you should! You won’t be disappointed.